Monday, February 28, 2011 By: Uwharrie Heirlooms

Raised beds with a story

I can post that I'm sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings only so many times without boring and losing my wonderful audience here, so I'll switch gears a bit and tell you a story.

My story is the one about my raised garden beds.
The photo to the left is the only one I have to share right now, but I hope that will change soon as I start to fill the beds with a great variety of vegetables that are currently being babied in the greenhouse.
The event that started me thinking about my story was the fact that I built two more raised beds today, doubling the number to four. My goal is to complete at least eleven beds before this season is over, but five may be my limit for this year.
So, here's the story of my raised garden beds:
For the past several years I have laid out my plant beds on an east-west pattern, just tilling the garden area and shoveling out a narrow path every four feet to create raised beds. Last year was the final straw as this grower was unable to walk between the beds because everything grew so fast and tall that it all just fell over into a huge mass of everything I had.
I decided that a different method was in order, so I started researching raised beds on the internet.
When we first moved to this land in 1995 I built four or five beds, using pressure-treated lumber. At that time I was in the landscaping business and spraying pesticides everywhere like nobody's business, but I soon learned that what I was doing wasn't what I wanted to be doing. I gradually left the spraying behind and tried to grow using compost and natural methods.
I tore out the pressure-treated beds and started gardening without them.
And I missed my raised beds.
Now, going back even farther, to the year 1990, the year Cindy and I were married. I had the opportunity to work for two of the dearest ladies that you would ever meet. Gladys Monroe and Ethel Reynolds lived in a large, two-story house that overlooked West Main Street in Biscoe.
If you go back to my first blog entry from a couple of years ago, you'll read a bit about them and how they influenced my life.
As it so happened, Cindy and I rented their late nephew and his mother's home, which was on an old hog farm just down the street and within view of Ethel and Gladys' house.
I'm sure that you're wondering where this story is going, so I'll digress and tell you that my garden beds are twenty-one years in the making.
After we moved onto the Monroe farm in 1990, Ethel and Gladys mentioned to me that, in one of the farm buildings, there was a stack of rough-sawn cedar lumber that belonged to them, and had been laying there for decades.
They told me that they had always wanted a cedar chest made from some of that lumber, but that they had never been able to find anyone to build it for them.
It just so happened that Cindy's father, Benny Stewart, had a woodworking shop behind his house and he agreed to make them a chest.
After they were presented with their chest they told me that I could have the rest of the lumber, and I gladly accepted it. It stayed in the farm building until we moved from there in 1995.
Upon moving, we had to find a new place to store the wood, so we moved it to an old barn at Cindy's grandmother's house.
Sadly, Cindy's grandmother passed away several years later and the farm was sold, so the lumber had to be moved again.
I didn't have a building to move it to this time, so I stacked it up on a couple of sawhorses out behind my house. The weight proved to be too much for the sawhorses and they collapsed, essentially causing the lumber to be laying on the ground.
Being tired of moving the lumber and still not knowing what I was going to use it for, I left it laying for three or four years, whereupon it became covered with honeysuckle and provided a nice shelter for mice and the black snakes that hunted them.
Two years ago, when it came time to build the greenhouse, it so happened that the lumber pile was right in the middle of the site I had chosen. So it was time to move it. Again.
This time I stacked it on cinder blocks with spacers between the layers. The only thing to bother it now was falling leaves and the weather.
One day I was looking over the stack and an idea hit me.
I finally knew what the lumber would be used for.
I would use it to rebuild the raised beds that I missed so much!
So, I restacked and sorted the pieces by width, and my raised beds are gradually reappearing.
They are each forty inches wide, to allow me to reach the middle without too much trouble, and
the beds are each twenty feet long.
The new beds run north-south, which my research had convinced me is the best way.
The old Monroe wood had finally found its use.
This cedar lumber that belonged to the ladies that had such an impact on my horticultural life has come around again to help me continue on my way.
Although Ethel and Gladys both passed away back in the 1990s, they still live with me in the form of some rough-sawn cedar that they bestowed upon me some twenty-one years ago.
Now I think about them every time I go into my garden, and it makes me smile.


farmhousewife said...

Everything has a story. What a great memory to have; the cedar wood supporting that which is living and breathing amongst your garden.

farmhousewife said...

As ever!

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